We awoke to the sound of cars passing on the rain sodden street down below. I could hear the tap tap of the rain drops falling on the metal table on the balcony of our hotel room. Oh no, I thought, I hope the rain doesn’t spoil our trip to Lecce and other towns in Salento region. The rain was expected. That was the reason why we had made our plans to see the towns closer to Bari the day before. The Salento region had a slim chance of rain according to the weather app. We hoped that the forecast was still true. I opened the curtains and looked outside. And to our relief we saw the clouds moving hurriedly away, leaving in its wake a pink streaked sky.
It was still drizzling in Polignano a Mare. We made our way there through the coastal road – just a short 38 minutes car ride enjoying the glimpses of Adriatic Sea all the way. Since we had not stopped in Polignano a Mare the previous day as we were supposed to, we had added Polignano a Mare to today’s itinerary. The agenda was very tight for the day as we had a lot further to travel after seeing Polignano a Mare.
Because of the rains or the early hour, there were very few tourists around. We could see some of them still enjoying their breakfast at the cafes overlooking the sea enjoying the views. There are cafes and restaurants with terraces jutting out over the sea on cliffs with magnificent views.
Polignano a Mare is on the Adriatic Sea. It’s famous for its views of Adriatic Sea and the cove. The view of the cove and surrounding tall cliffs from an eighteenth century Bourbon bridge was breathtaking. We took full advantage of sparsely crowded streets and wandered leisurely taking in the charms of the town and the views of the cove and the sea from the different vantage points. We spent the time wandering the lanes of the old town. Polignano is like the other Puglia towns with white buildings full of charm edging the narrow lane spreading in all directions from the main square and the Mother Church, Chiesa Madre di S. Maria Assunta. These narrow lanes would mostly end somewhere with a breathtaking view of the sea. The town lies within tall walls over the cliffs. We felt like children, weaving in and out of those lanes. At the end we would discover a dead end or we would end up on a terrace with a view. Imagine our glee at such a discovery!
Polignano a Mare is also famous for the singer Domenico Modugno who was born and brought up there. There is a monument to the singer where lot of Italian tourists come for pilgrimage. His song Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu made him famous all over the world. The song won Eurovision contest in 1958. The banner featuring the lines from the song greeted us as we entered Via Roma, Polignano’s pedestrian only Main Street. (I have posted a YouTube video links of the song on the Post Settings page).
Polignano a Mare is a popular beach and water sport destination. We could see a platform in the water where a group of people in their snorkeling gear were waiting for a boat. There are boat tours available to take you out to the sea from where you can enjoy the beautiful views of the town and visit the caves. Since we were short of time, we let that idea drop. I had even read about cliff diving competition there. There was some event in the town. But I don’t think it was a cliff diving event. A DJ was testing his mic with his voice and loud music. He even checked with some of us watching the scene from the other side of the cliff whether we could hear him or not. Of course, I would have preferred the sound of sea water splashing on the cliff.
It would be remiss to not mention the Puglia ceramics. This part of Italy is famous for the ceramics made from local clay. The town of Grottaglie is the ceramic capital of Puglia. We didn’t have a chance to visit it. But the ceramics are sold in all the towns we visited. The ceramic pots, ceramic balloons and pumo are available in bright colors. As you enter any town, first thing you will notice are the shops selling these colorful objects. The shiny colorful ceramic objects contrast against the white walls of the shops. A pumo can be found everywhere. It’s a cone shaped ceramic bud surrounded by leaves. The belief here is that it brings you good luck. People keep it in their homes as a good luck charm.
As we approached the gates, we saw that a few vendors had set up their stalls under the canopies selling locally grown food. We stopped to take a look at the colorful array of sun dried tomatoes, different kinds of olives, hot peppers, crushed pepper, dried oregano, other herbs and lots more. The temptation was too great for us not to buy. I had read about the pickled white beans that’s produced and eaten in this area. We saw those also and decided to give it a try. Puglia is famous for taralli, a traditional Italian breadsticks – like snack. Everywhere we went, taralli were offered to the tourists for tasting by the specialized shops selling different kinds of flavored tarallis. They are made with Puglia’s own olive oil and so it has a distinct taste. In this part of Italy, because of its smaller size they are called tarallini. The most popular are the ones made with crushed red pepper. We bought it a couple of times to munch on during the car rides.
After sampling the olives, pickled fava beans and taralli from the food vendors we made our way to our second stop of the day, town of Lecce in the Salento region. By that time the rain clouds were moving away and leaving in its place a filtered sunlight.